Thursday, November 10, 2016

Leder, Meg. The Museum of Heartbreak.

Leder, Meg.  The Museum of Heartbreak.    Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse  2016  269p  $17.99  ISBN 978-1-4814-3210-8  hs  Realistic fiction  VG  

Growing up is all about trying new relationships, friendships and experiences to find how what works best for us, which bonds are worth enduring and which traits in others should be treasured and which should be ignored.  Penelope has two best friends, Ephraim and Autumn.  The trio is inseparable, or at least, they have been inseparable until now.  On the first day of junior year, Penelope meets Keats, a rich boy with good looks and a seemingly cool personality.  Penelope can’t help but react to his charm.  However, Keats seems to have the eye of Pen’s nemesis, Cherisse, as does Audrey, who it appears will soon replace Penelope with Cherisse as her new best friend.  As the rising action develops, one gets to know Pen better.  She writes (having already begun a story entitled “Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak”), she falls hard for bad boys, and she doesn’t like change.  She is creative, a bit whiny at times, and introspective.  In other words, readers will find something to relate to as they read about Pen.  In addition, she is passionate about literature, which leads her to Nevermore, a small literary group at school that publishes student writing.  Penelope watches as her friendship with Audrey goes downhill, but she is not long for suffering, for she realizes that she must find someone new to fill the spot.  Grace, a member of the writing group, is the perfect choice.  There are all sorts of mini sub-plots swirling around the main plot, adding interesting sidebars to Penelope’s circumstances.  Nevertheless, it is Penelope’s growth as a human being in her varied relationships with others that provides the main plot and the theme of the novel.  Who will she recognize as her equal?  Who really loves her?  What is the value of a long-term friendship?  Teen readers will enjoy figuring out what is best for Pen at the same time she figures it out.  The development of a Museum of Heartbreak has its usefulness when Penelope’s writing meets real life, as literature often does.  Leder reveals several shining moments as an author, especially in lines like this one on page 97: “The sky grumbled ominously behind me, irritable with rain.”  Teen readers will enjoy her style, her descriptions and her knowledge of the mind of a teen girl.     

Summary: Penelope is experiencing growing pains.  This happens to all high schoolers who face growing up and examining their friendships and other relationships, the good ones as well as the toxic ones.  Penelope learns that heartbreak happens, but it helps one grow up.  

Friendship-Fiction, Coming of age-Fiction --Martha Squaresky

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